Monday, April 30, 2007

Election of Democrats vital to LGBT equal rights

This is in the Friday, 27 Apr 2007 issue of the Seattle Gay News.

Election of Democrats vital to LGBT equal rights
by Lee Bolin - Special to the Seattle Gay News

The passage of Senate Bill 5336, which provides for domestic partner rights, was made possible by Democratic gains in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire signed the bill into law on Saturday, 21 Apr 2007.

Governor Gregoire won the 2004 race for Washington Governor by only 129 votes out of 2,810,058 cast. Her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi, repeatedly avoided gay union questions during the campaign. The Washington Conservative Union nevertheless gave him a score of 100 in 2003 for, among other things, opposing an employment protection bill that included a sexual orientation clause. Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that a Governor Rossi would have vetoed SB 5336.

Going into the 2004 election, Democrats were in the Senate minority by 24-25. They now control the Senate by 32-17, and it was this Democratic majority as well as the one in the House that passed the domestic partner bill and sent it to Governor Gregoire to sign.

In the state Senate, 27 of 32 Democrats voted "yes" (84%). Only one Republican of 17 voted "yes" (6%).

In the state House, 60 of 62 Democrats voted "yes" (97%). Only three of 36 Republicans voted "yes" (8%).

Same-sex couples who register as domestic partners will now have rights to hospital visitation, to automatic inheritance, and to making decisions about a deceased partner's remains, among other rights that are now guaranteed to married couples. This is a law that recognizes the reality of lesbian and gay families.

Additionally, Democratic Senator Ed Murray has alluded to the possibility that full marriage rights are within reach for Washington's same-sex couples. The day that the bill was signed, he stated that "[t]oday is a beginning, not an end....It offers the hope that one day, all lesbian and gay families will be treated truly equal under the law."

This possibility cannot be taken for granted, however. Washington is among the states that have a prohibition on same-sex marriage. Moreover, in Washington 's 2006 legislative elections, the winners in 12 House races and 7 Senate races received less than 55% of the vote. Every vote will count in races for governor and for the legislature in 2008 and beyond if rights for lesbian and gay families are to be guaranteed and expanded.

Congressman Barney Frank has repeatedly stated that party affiliation matters when we make voting decisions. Call it the Frank Party Principle. The passage of SB 5336 is a textbook example of the verity of his observation.

We may quantify this with Bolin's Gay 90 Rule: 90% of Democratic officeholders will support the lesbian and gay community 90% of the time on 90% of our issues, and 90% of Republican officeholders will oppose us 90% of the time on 90% of our issues.

As Governor Gregoire signed SB 5336 into law, she said, "This is a very proud moment for me as governor, to make sure the rights of all of our citizens are equal." If Washington voters make wise decisions in coming elections for governor and for the legislature, perhaps this same statement will soon be made by a Democratic governor signing a same-sex marriage bill into law.

As the old saying goes, voting is like driving: if you want to go backward, put it in "R"; if you want to go forward, put it in "D".

Lee Bolin blogs at . He is not a Republican.

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